As Browns fans await J.J. Watt’s decision and try and decode the tweets of current Browns players, Cleveland Browns Nation is busy trying to figure out what GM Andrew Berry is going to do for an encore in 2021. After Berry was hired, Browns fans were convinced he was an extension of former Browns GM Sashi Brown.
Boy, were they wrong.
To understand the 2021 offseason, one must look back to last year’s offseason. The first thing Browns fans learned, Andrew Berry’s front office does not leak information. Sure, agents will give contract information and team preferences to reporters with a blue checkmark. More often than not, this information is false and is used as a negotiation tactic. If someone tweets “sources inside the Browns front office report” they really don’t know anyone in the Browns front office. Berry doesn’t negotiate through the media. To understand what’s going on this year, let’s take a look at last year.
Going into the 2020 season, Berry was tasked with fixing the biggest weakness of the Browns, the offensive line. Right tackle, right guard and left tackle needed major upgrades. Would he sign a LT or draft one of the four studs in the 2020 draft with the first pick? What about the RT position? Who would backup QB Baker Mayfield? Would he re-sign LB Joe Schobert? How would he fix the revolving door at the safety position? Browns fans wondered how the new GM would fix all these problems. Berry started by doing some roster cleaning. From January 28 to March 16 he signed FB Johnny Stanton and terminated the contracts of C Lo Falemaka, CB T.J. Carrie, TE Demetrius Harris, TE Demetrius Harris, LB Adarius Taylor, LB Christian Kirksey and S Morgan Burnett. He also tendered RB Kareem Hunt, TE Pharaoh Brown, RB Dontrell Hilliard and WR KhaDarel Hodge.
As the legal tampering period for free agents approached, the Browns were linked to RT Jack Conklin and TE Austin Hooper, but other teams were also mentioned. However, the silence from Berea was deafening. When the league year started and teams could officially announce who they were signing, the Browns were eerily quiet. Then on the afternoon of the first day within an hour, it was announced the Browns were going to sign Conklin, Hooper and QB Case Keenum. On the second day of free agency, Berry traded for FB Andy Janovich. The third day started with one-year deals for players like LB B.J. Goodson, WR JoJo Natson, CB Donovan Olumba, DT Andrew Billings and fan-favorite S Andrew Sendejo. April produced deals for CB Kevin Johnson. DE Adrian Clayborn and S Karl Joseph. After the first two days, Andrew Berry was rebuilding the roster with players he felt he could sign to “prove it” deals. Berry had a plan and he stuck to it. All Browns fans know what happened in the draft. Left Tackle, safety, linebacker and defensive tackle positions were addressed.
So what does all this mean for 2021? Unfortunately, the Browns are still fighting the incorrect perception that they are a down franchise with some agents because they’ve been down for some time. As with 2020, Andrew Berry has a plan and he will stick to the process that made last year’s offseason a great success. He’s not going to overspend on some Browns free agents; he’ll let other teams set the market. Remember, take every tweet with a grain of salt, even when they’re from a respected NFL insider (yeah I’m talking to you, John Clayton). Don’t jump to conclusions on every tweet you read from current players. Yes, restructures will need to be done on current contracts and yes, the Browns have the cap space to sign free agents. You can expect a flurry of activity when the final salary cap amount is set. Andrew Berry has the path in front of him to fix the defense in 2021 and make the Browns a better team.
Hopefully, a Super Bowl contender!